Plans to build affordable housing on two Munson Street lots are on hold, following a City Hall meeting Wednesday of the Livable City Initiative’s Property Acquisitions and Disposition Committee.
The committee voted to send the proposed deals back to the not-for-developer, Beulah Land Development Corps, to draw up a new development plan and land disposition proposal.
Beulah, which has transformed once-blighted property in Dixwell with new affordable housing, is seeking to buy land from the city to build a three-family house at 232 Munson and a two-family house at 245 Munson. The board of LCI — government’s neighborhood development and anti-blight agency — is the first of several stops for needed approval.
Tom Talbot, the city’s deputy director of zoning, said Beulah’s proposals violated zoning ordinances regarding the amount of space in each lot. He also advised that one lot is zoned for industrial, not residential, use. Talbot advised LCI to delay the sales until Beulah comes up with a proposal within zoning limits or gets approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“They’re out of line to approve non-compliant zoning,” Talbot said of LCI.
Evan Trachten, the Acquisitions and Dispositions Coordination for LCI, disagreed. Trachten said LCI has long approved sales to developers whose final plans haven’t been approved by the zoning board. He said the disagreement was a philosophical one.
Quinnipiac Meadows Alder Gerald Antunes expressed concern that LCI would tarnish its reputation if it approved non-compliant proposals.
“It makes us look bad to approve something that isn’t permitted,” Antunes said.
“The applicant seeks their own approval,” Trachten said. To Trachten LCI’s job is to get land and housing into the hands of developers who want to build housing, and let them negotiate with the Board of Zoning Appeals directly.
Talbot said the lots are too small to be zoned for multi-family units; 232 Munson measures 5,200 square feet; 245 Munson, a mere 3,400 square feet.
Iman Hameen, who lives near 245 Munson, agreed that the lots are too small for the project..
“There’s no room. It’s going to be very tight,” Hameen said.
“It’s one thing to ask for a variance on a one- or two-family [house]. It’s another thing entirely to do that for a three-family structure,” Talbot said. Talbot also voiced concern that multifamily structures encourage renting over homeownership, though Trachten said LCI has developed multi-family rentals and multi-family owner-occupant-rental mixture before.
The proposed deals, under which Beulah is to pay $1,000 per unit of deed-restricted affordable housing, were both rejected until Beulah Land Development comes back with a proposal meeting the zoning rules in place. Then, Talbot said, he would feel satisfied with the deals, and the process. Talbot said the votes Wednesday left the door open for zoning changes further down the line, but ensured LCI would be dealing with zoning compliant land dispositions.